The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District on Wedneday met with neighbors on Senea Lake in Guernsey and Noble counties about its plans to lease land for natural gas drilling and to sell water to drillers.
The neighbors are unhappy with those plans.
Here is the press release issued after the meeting by the neighbors:
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) held a public meeting to tell local residents about its plans to lease land for horizontal, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and sell water to service the massive amounts required by the industry. The meeting was held at the Secrest Center in Senecaville on October 17. The meeting was advertised to provide input opportunity to local residents, but many attendees observed that the conservancy district was determined to pursue leasing and water sales despite any questions or concerns presented.
Some property owners near the lake questioned how the conservancy district could affect property values and quality of life, possibly their health, without a vote of the local citizenry. The composition of the Conservancy Board was questioned, and citizens asked for a more accountable governing body. Dr. Peter Nara, a Seneca Lake cottage owner for the past 49 years, stated that MWCD has not demonstrated sound, long term economic watershed planning and management as it relates to its primary mission of controlling and conserving excess flood waters of its lakes. Steve Jansto of Senecaville stated that selling water and fracking the lake without public approval and consent is a human rights issue.
Lea Harper of the Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water, a local property owner, asked why the MWCD would expose Seneca Lake to contamination and local residents to degraded property values and negative health impacts without weighing those effects. She questioned if the MWCD would have to raise property taxes in the long run for remediation and if the temporary windfall profit would be worth it. Many others questioned how the MWCD would have the authority to undertake such risky endeavors, selling water that will be contaminated beyond any future use, creating a toxic waste disposal issue for the local community and others outside the watershed. It was pointed out that for the first time anyone can recall, emergency drinking water supplies for the City of Cambridge were needed this summer from Seneca Lake. It was questioned whether this had anything to do with Guernsey County Water and Sewer selling massive quantities of water for fracking from Wills Creek Reservoir.
The stark contrast between conservancy districts in Ohio and water protection efforts was noted. The Miami Conservancy District in Ohio testified in state legislative hearings this August to protect its aquifer from potential contamination from injection wells. With the MWCD in control of 20% of the state’s resources managing major reservoirs, the debate over selling water from Seneca Reservoir and drilling around it, causing potential contamination in the future, is a defining moment for Ohio. Will Ohioans eventually regret the destruction of freshwater supplies? Clendening and Leesville Reservoirs that have already been leased for fracking, and water is being sold from Piedmont and Tappan for MWCD profit. Many people who care about Ohio’s clean freshwater supplies question how water can be taken out of the hydrologic cycle forever and destroyed for any future use. Remaining water could potentially be contaminated in the future by seepage from long laterals left under reservoirs, connecting with existing abandoned mines and vertical wells or unknown fault pathways.
With the drought the state experienced this year and future projections of water shortages, there is now a national debate about water usage and waste creation by the unconventional shale drilling industry. There is a glut of gas now, while water shortages continue. Many people are questioning why the industry does not put a hold on drilling until better environmental protections are in place. States like New York and Maryland already have a moratorium in part because of the serious risk factors involved that need to be studied more thoroughly.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.